European Lawmakers Voice Support for Taiwan’s Inclusion in WHO Health Meeting

European Lawmakers Voice Support for Taiwan’s Inclusion in WHO Health Meeting
A military helicopter flies with Taiwan's national flag during the National Day in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei on Oct. 10, 2020. (Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images)
Frank Fang

TAIPEI, Taiwan—Over 100 European lawmakers and officials are calling on the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) to allow Taiwan to participate in an upcoming international meeting.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed gratitude for the support it received from European countries in a press release on Nov. 1. The call to WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus came just days before the 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA), the WHO’s decision-making body, will reconvene on Nov. 9. The previous WHA meeting was held in May.

According to the press release, four European lawmakers—Waldemar Andzel from Poland, Istvan Tiba from Hungary, Peter Osusky from Slovakia, and Marek Benda from the Czech Republic—sent a joint letter to Ghebreyesus on Oct. 22.

Joint letters were also co-signed by 102 lawmakers and officials from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

In the letters, the lawmakers pointed to the success Taiwan has had with containing the spread of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, which made it imperative for the island to join the WHO, the lawmakers said.

Excluding Taiwan and its 23 million people from the world body would be a human rights violation and would not benefit the global effort to combat the pandemic, they wrote.

Taiwan is not a WHO member state. But from 2009 to 2016, Taiwan’s health ministers were allowed to take part in the WHA as observers.

Since 2017, Taiwan has been barred by Beijing from taking part in the assembly and its meetings.

Beijing opposes Taiwan from taking part in any international meetings and organizations because it sees the island as a part of its territory, despite the fact that the self-ruled island has a functioning democratic government with its own military, currency, and constitution.

Despite being just 81 miles from China, Taiwan has largely prevented the spread of the virus on the island. As of Nov. 1, the island has 558 confirmed infection cases and seven deaths related to the virus. Its last locally-transmitted case was reported more than 200 days ago, on April 12.
Taiwan’s 200-day achievement was recognized internationally. On Oct. 29, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Ver.) took to Twitter to say that the U.S. government should go by Taiwan’s example in preventing COVID-19 spread.
German politician Engine Eroglu, who is also a member of the European Parliament, posted on Twitter: “Taiwan is one of few countries who handled the crisis well right from the start!”
Ahead of the last WHA meeting, which was held virtually on May 18 and 19, health officials from 14 countries, including the United States, Japan, and Nicaragua, expressed support for Taiwan’s inclusion in the WHA, according to Taiwan’s government-run Central News Agency.

Ultimately, Taiwan was not invited.

On May 18, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement criticizing the WHO chief and Beijing over Taiwan’s exclusion.

“WHO’s Director-General Tedros had every legal power and precedent to include Taiwan in WHA’s proceedings. Yet, he instead chose not to invite Taiwan under pressure from the People’s Republic of China (PRC),” Pompeo stated.

He added: “The PRC’s spiteful action to silence Taiwan exposes the emptiness of its claims to want transparency and international cooperation to fight the pandemic, and makes the difference between China and Taiwan ever more stark.”

This article has been updated to clarify that there were multiple letters with similar content sent to the WHO head.